Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, August 16, 2010

Villarreal: 10-year delay not speedy trial violation

In U.S. v. Villarreal, No. 09-11348 (Aug. 13, 2009), the Court rejected a constitutional speedy trial right challenge to an indictment, and affirmed a 328-month sentence on a defendant convicted of trafficking in more than 10,000 kilograms of marijuana.

The Court recognized that because the defendant was arrested ten (10) years after the indictment was filed, the delay was “clearly” presumptively prejudicial. However the Court found that (1) Villarreal engaged in evasive tactics to impede the government’s efforts to arrest him, although this factor did not weigh heavily in the government’s favor because of “gaps in the government’s efforts to locate Villarreal,” (2) Villarreal knew that the government was seeking to arrest and prosecute him for charges stemming from a Florida drug bust, (3) Villarreal failed to show actual prejudice from the delay – he did not show how missing business records would help his case, and the government suffered prejudice in locating witnesses for trial. On balance, the factors weighed against a speedy trial violation.

Turning to sentencing, the Court found that the witnesses who testified about marijuana purchases from Villarreal supported the quantity attributed to him. The evidence also supported a leadership role enhancement, and an enhancement for constructive possession of a firearm. The 328-month sentence fell within the Guideline range and was reasonable.